By now you realize that I love an excuse to head down to San Diego and visit PETCO Park. This time my excuse was that my wife had to work all day on a Saturday (and I actually had almost the whole day off) and the Marlins would be visiting the Padres–perhaps with some of their inaugural season at Marlins Park baseballs in tow.
I headed down the 5 freeway and got to the park at 3:00pm for a 5:35pm start. The Park at the Park was open so I showed the staff my ticket, received my free Padres T-shirt, and jogged in. When I finally saw the field from the bleachers just beyond the beach I was not pleased with what I saw.
The only activity was a random Marlin throwing over by the foul line… hundreds of feet away. It turned out that since the game the night before went 12 innings, the Marlins decided not to take BP on the field… which meant the Padres would be taking the visitors’ BP slot. Which meant that the only action on the field for the first 40 minutes I was there was a few Marlins pitchers throwing off in a corner… and that was as close as I could get. Bummer. And that player “closest” to me was Sandy Rosario. I called out to him… a long shot… but he didn’t even look my way.
I went over to the Team Store to see if the cutout was accessible and to my shock and horror, it had been (as of this season) turned into a luxury suite. Good for the folks that get to eat a buffet dinner and sit their… bad for a nobody like me who was trying to snag a baseball.
I ended up waiting for the rest of the stadium to open. At 3:30pm I ran up the steps and darted down toward where the Marlin pitchers had been throwing. But they were gone! Just two coaches were left and when I asked them for a baseball (and they ignored me) I ran to the other side of the stadium because I saw a few Padres emerge from the dugout. The cage was up so I knew they’d start hitting soon. First though, they would throw.
I got shot down by the first pair of Padres I asked, but the second pair paid attention. And after Nick Hundley threw, then signed a few autographs, I got him to toss me his warmup ball before he headed down the dugout steps.
The ball from Hundley commemorated a very special day that I didn’t even think would ever happen when I caught my first baseball at a game seven years ago. As he tossed the ball to me and I caught it… I had officially snagged at least one baseball in each of my last 100 games attended.
After that I watched as baseball after baseball was NOT hit to the seats–anywhere. I think there were maybe three home runs during the 30 minutes of Padre BP that I saw. It had started out as a pretty frustrating day. The guys who were using commemorative baseballs had barely been on the field and the guys who decided to hit weren’t putting anything anywhere near the fans.Jeff Suppan acted like he was going to toss me a ball out in right field–but never did. And the Padres ran off the field with me still stuck on one baseball.
Eventually, I went over to my seat. And taped to it I found a sign that basically said, “Hey–come get a prize from us–you’ll just have to let us try to get you to buy season tickets. Thanks! -The Padres.”
Well, I had twenty minutes to kill before any players would take the field for pregame throwing so I went–found the ticket representative, told them I didn’t want season tickets, and got my prize. Know what it was? It was a Padres hat–what do you think of that? I got a shirt and a hat–a whole Padre ensemble, just for being at a game on Cinco de Mayo.
Now, if I could just snag another ball…
At about 5:20 a few Marlins started warming up down the third base line.Among them was Hanley Ramirez (just out of frame to the left in the above photo). I tried to figure out if he had a commemorative ball in his hand.Try as I might, I couldn’t snag another ball. But I did snag something pretty sweet, an autograph from Han-Ram on a 2007 Upper Deck card!
Yep, just hours before the game I picked up a seat from StubHub for thirty bucks. Not too shabby, huh? And my seat, not just useful for the view, paid dividends early on. See, when Gaby Sanchez took the throw from starter Mark Buehrle when Chase Headley hit a soft grounder back to the mound, I stood up in my seat and yelled, “Hey, Gaby–right here!” I waved my glove and he lofted the ball to me.Easy as that. Everyone around me was pretty astonished. And I just sat back down and went back to watching the game. It was a great game.
It’s crazy–when you actually have a fantastic seat you’re not tempted to move from it. Instead… if you’re me… you take pictures. Like Clayton Richard delivering pitches:And Mark Buerhle doing the same…Two lefties battling it out. And here’s Giancarlo Stanton getting ready to bat:
I mean, I could hear Ozzie Guillen talking to his players as they returned to the dugout. I could tell when a pitch was outside without looking–I head the ump calling, “That’s outside.” I mean, look, I could see all the gunk on Han–Ram’s helmet:
And the groovy patch the Marlins players and coaches are wearing on their uniforms this year.And when hunger overcame me… I ran to get a pretzel and a beverage and ran back to my seat… I didn’t want to miss anything. Like Chase Headley getting the sign from his third base coach:
Buerhle was mowing down the Padres. He’d end up giving up just one run on five hits and pitching his first complete game since 2010. And Giancarlo (formerly Mike) Stanton CRUSHED a solo homer in the ninth which made the score 4-1. And I took a couple of nifty action shots as he rounded third and then got back to the dugout:
Feel free to click to make them larger. I hope you all recognize how much that high five picture makes me laugh. Like, Stanton is trying to make it seem like he’s jumping because Emilio Bonifacio needs to jump just to high five him… but Stanton’s totally on the ground. But Bonifacio is jumping as high as he can. Ha!
OK, no one else… fine.
Like I said, the Stanton shot made it 4-1. That’s where it would stay. Man, Buehrle’s good–and quick.
I’d been speaking to a couple of families around me in the seats throughout the game. One father and son duo was great. I chatted with them both about how I knew what to do in order to get a ball… and advised the boy about the umpire tunnel. In case you couldn’t tell… it was immediately to my left from my seat. Here’s a good view of it:
I recommended that the little guy position himself near there, call out the umpire’s name (“Gary,” in this case), and hope there was a ball or two to be given… and in the ninth inning we made our move. He to the ump tunnel and me to the dugout. Here was my view just before the final out of the game:See the staircase on the left? I planned to run down it to an opening right at the dugout. The usher (who was strict, even in the ninth) wouldn’t let me go past him until I clearly told him I wasn’t going to compete with the little kids for an ump ball… I told him instead I was planning to go straight to the dugout. He finally let me through. As soon as Buerhle finished off his complete game I got myself in position at the dugout–but didn’t snag a darn thing. I was stuck on two baseballs for the whole day. My poor showing didn’t hamper my giving spirit though, and I flipped the Hundley ball the the young fan at the umpire tunnel after I noticed the umps all ignored him.
As it turns out, the Long Haul Bombers would be holding a softball mashing tournament round. So, as soon as the Marlins were all in the dugout I bolted for right field… and I took up a spot here:
It’s right near where I caught one of these softballs the year before. Sadly though, even though I ran from right to left and back a couple of times… I couldn’t snag another ball. As I left the stadium, Michelle called me to say she was getting off of work–so I booked it to the car and made the drive up the 5 to Orange County. A free hat, a free shirt, a great seat, two baseballs, and an autograph… not a bad haul.
Before this day, the last time I’d gone to a Major League Baseball game that wasn’t at Angel Stadium was when Michelle and I had gone to Chase Field for two games back in August of 2010. Fifteen consecutive games at the Big A… and finally I got a chance to take a mini road trip down to San Diego.
I parked my car in a structure at about 2:45 (for a 5:35 game) and walked south a few blocks until I saw:
I wandered all around the exterior of the stadium until the Park at the Park and the beach opened at 3:00… then I ran in and spent about thirty minutes with this view in front of me.
Not a single baseball got hit to the beach during the time I was there but I did get Luke Gregerson’s autograph on an old ticket I had with me before heading up to the left field seats when the rest of the stadium opened at 3:30. I spent a lot of BP in left field and eventually snagged a Ryan Ludwick homer after it bounced in the spot shown in the photo on the left. As you can tell, the seats were pretty full.
And after that they filled up even more so I ran over to right field where there was a little more space to move.
The Padres ran off the field and the Braves came out to hit–and after ten minutes a BP ball got hit up to the seats, was bobbled by some fans and fell back onto the field. Tim Hudson walked over and tossed it up (to no one in particular) and a fan three feet from me dropped it. The ball fell onto a chain link covering between the seats and the field. I walked over, leaned out, and plucked it off the fencing. Then I found a little kid nearby (wearing a glove) and handed it to him.
In the photo to the right you can see my view from near where I snagged Ball #2 and Tim Hudson standing in the outfield. BP got pretty boring after that. Surprisingly, the Braves didn’t hit too many baseballs to the seats. I became very aware of the expansive space that is PETCO Park. I’d seen these same Braves a month earlier hitting bombs in Anaheim… but in SD they barely cleared the fences.
So, it was a frustrating BP made slightly better by the fact that, as the Braves ran off the field, I got a ball tossed to me at the dugout by Julio Lugo.
Then, some Braves came out to stretch and throw before the national anthem:
Freddie Freeman kept the ball he used during warmups with Jason Heyward:
First basemen tend to do that since they usually need them for the first inning to warm up their fellow infielders.
When the game started I sat near my ticketed seat… not in it… but near it. I stayed on the aisle and two rows closer to the field than I should have been… but even on a beach towel giveaway night the attendance was just over 38,000 so there was plenty of space. Here was my view:
I did snag a ball during the game–but it was tossed into the seats by the Pad [pahd] Squad and was squishy:
Chipper Jones was playing third base and I was glad to get to see him play–who knows how long he’ll still be able to? He’s one of the few players I’ve followed since I first got into watching baseball when I was a kid.
And Jason Heyward is quickly becoming my new favorite Brave to see play… he went two for five with two doubles and two RBIs in this game. That guy can hit!
As far as stats about the game… it was close through seven innings: 3-1 Braves… but Atlanta pulled away in the eighth with three runs and then scored four more in the ninth. Dan Uggla crushed a three-run homer in that ninth inning and as he touched home plate… well, look:
Butt slap! Why is that always how players congratulate each other?
I moved right behind the dugout for the bottom of the ninth:
As the game came to a close the Long Haul Bombers prepared for their home run derby…
The Braves won the MLB game, 10-1. And if you’ve never heard of the Long Haul Bombers… they are a group of burly dudes that absolutely crush specially made softballs as far (or farther) than Major League hitters hit baseballs. I’d only ever read about these guys online and, as it turned out, they would be doing a round of their HRD at PETCO on this evening. I did not get a ball from home plate ump Kerwin Danley, nor did I get anything from the Braves postgame. After the Braves retreated to their clubhouse I ran out to the outfield stands–and to the second deck of left field.
It was pretty packed up there and the first hitter turned out to be a lefty–who, obviously, pulled everything to right field. The second hitter was a righty and… man, oh, man… they were crushing the balls. Multiple softballs actually hit the jumbotron in left field. I decided to go all out and run back and forth from left to right and back again depending on which hitter was up. It was exhausting and I was on the verge of frustration when a drive got crushed up to section133 in right field. I ran up a staircase, cut through a row and made a final lunge to catch the ball in the spot in the photo on the right.
And for your reference, here’s what these softballs look like (from the spot where I caught it–about 440 feet from home plate)! Yowza!
And then I jogged to the car and made it home in just over an hour. Exhausted.
This would be quite the full day.
It started with me (and Michelle) waking up at the crack of dawn and heading up to the stadium. March 27th was the day of the Angels 5k and Fun Run at the stadium. I’s signed up at the beginning of the month for the 5k and I’d been training for it for a couple of weeks. I’ve always enjoyed running and wanted to make sure I didn’t embarrass myself. We arrived at ten minutes to seven and Michelle decided she would stay in the car while I ran. I couldn’t blame her–it was early and the weather was less than ideal. There was rain in the forecast and I was just hoping to get through the run before it got too wet.
I started about 500 people back and, though I can’t show you through pictures (because I was running), there were easily four times that many people there. I had a clip-on transmitter on my shoe that would track my time–as I crossed the starting line the clock already had counted up to about a minute… and when I crossed the second checkpoint (at the halfway mark) the clock was around 16 minutes… and when I approached the finish line the clock was ticking up toward 30 minutes. I crossed the line at 30:03… my goal had been to come in under 30 minutes and since I knew I could easily take a minute off my time (based on how long it took to get up to the starting line) I was thrilled!
I drank some water, got a free hat and a Clif bar, and headed back over to the car to find my wife. When I got there she took a photo of me post race:
Oh, yes… I grew a beard over the off-season. It has since been shaved off… sorry to scare you there, readers.
At that point it was about 7:45am and Angels FanFest was set to open up at 8:00… but I’d promised Michelle coffee and, quite frankly, I needed a rest. We headed to Starbucks–I changed clothes once we got there–we got breakfast and waited for the rain to pass… it had started drizzling right when I got back to the car after the race.
At around 9:30 we headed back to the stadium for FanFest. It was a bunch of vendors, autograph stations, merchandise booths, and photo ops. We each got autographs from Chris Pettit and Andrew Romine and then we stood in a long line to get Hank Conger’s autograph:
While we were there we noticed you could get your photo taken with the Rally Monkey:
So we stood in that line, too, and got this picture:
–which I was kind of disappointed in once I saw it. I mean, we’re like six feet from the monkey! C’mon! At least we look cute. That monkey is licking the mini bat at this point, I think.
Anyway, we left FanFest after an hour or so–and went to get snacks for the game that afternoon. We’d need to be back by noon to get free parking for the game and, sadly, we found out once we were back with our snacks that the gates wouldn’t open until 1:00. Bah!
So I ran inside at 1:00 to see the Padres on the field taking BP:
And after a few minutes I convinced someone wearing number 95 on the Padres to toss me a baseball–I was on the board for the day. Here’s the guy who threw it (left) and the spot where I caught it (right):
While I took those photos I heard someone yell, “Comin’ in!” and I looked up, then to my right as a ball smacked off a seat ten feet away from me… surprising since a righty was up to bat.
Well, here’s the spot where I grabbed my second ball of the day–and the only one that got hit up to the pavilion while I was there. And that was pretty much it for BP. Not bad–two baseballs in about 30 seconds. I only had about 15 minutes of batting practice to work with so I can’t
I met up with Michelle and hung out with her for a bit–and then headed toward the Angel dugout when they came out for pregame throwing. It was nice to see the field up close.
I got shut out there but I went to the Padre dugout after that and got my third baseball of the day thrown to me by Logan Forsythe near the camera well.
Eventually, the folks who actually had those seats arrived and we relocated to the outfield with this view:
I was hoping to get a home run but the only homers hit this day would go to center field. Bummer.
Toward the end of the game, with the score 9-2 Angels we moved here:
And as the Angels wrapped up the victory I got behind the Padre dugout to try to snag a postgame baseball… but all the Padres went into the dugout without tossin’ up a thing… except for the last player to leave the field. A short, Latino pitcher from the bullpen who I later identified as Samuel Deduno tossed me a rubbed up baseball as he headed down the steps for my fourth baseball on the afternoon.
And, though it took him several tries, a nice, elderly usher took a photo of Michelle and I as we left the park.
It had been a long day–lots of running–and we were both exhausted.
Not a bad start to the season,,. a good run, four baseballs, three autographs, some swag from FanFest, an Angels win, and a lot of fun.
And later that night I checked online to see my official results from the 5k… I came in at 28:46, not fantastic, but I ran faster than I expected! It would be over a week before my next game, with the Angels heading out on the road. I was anxious for them to get back because I knew that when they did return they’d be using commemorative baseballs and hopefully some of those would have found their way into the BP buckets…
My next game would be on April 9th. More to come soon, loyal readers, and happy 2011 baseball season to all of you.
After a nutritious complimentary breakfast at our hotel and a speedy checkout, we left our bags with the concierge and drove downtown to Chase Field for our second of two games. We parked and headed for Friday’s yet again. I knew two things about this game:
1. The crowd would be smaller than yesterday.
2. There might not be batting practice.
It was eerily quiet in the stadium. I tried to get the lone player I could recognize, Jordan Norberto, to throw a ball way up to the patio but he ignored me as he finished his throwing session. With about five minutes to go before the gates would open Michelle and I took the elevator down, went outside Friday’s and got in line…
Were there thousands of people there waiting like there had been just sixteen hours earlier? No. I was fifth in line… with five minutes to go before the gates opened… even though kids would be receiving a “Back to School Kit.” It was hot outside…
I was actually much more excited than this photo depicts… but it was sooo hot outside!
With no batting practice to focus on I went over to the D-backs bullpen where Daniel Hudson was getting his work in. He’d thrown me a ball the day before… so I asked Jeff Motuzas, the bullpen catcher, for the ball when they were done. He tossed it to a D-backs fan to my left though. Sigh. I did get Mel Stottlemyer, Jr. to autograph a ticket stub for me while I was waiting for any further action to commence. Mel signed it upside-down…
When I saw a few Padres come out to throw I ran over near the first base line while putting on my Padres stuff.
And, lo and behold, I saw the guy who had gotten the ball from Motuzas decked out in Padres gear! So, Arizona ballhawk, if you’re reading this: Good form–sorry we didn’t get to meet. How many baseballs did you end up with? And did I see you snagging along the left field foul line on Saturday, too?
Anyway, I watched a few pitchers warm up… then got Luke Gregerson’s autograph… though I wanted the baseball he’d been using. And then Kevin Correia threw in the bullpen. And Nick Hundley pretended to bat against him. When Correia finished I was standing right over bullpen catcher Justin Hatcher and shouted, “Kev, right here!”
Correia chucked Ball #1 right to me. No shut out today.
There was little to no action happening on the field so Michelle and I wandered a little and took some pictures.
Then, finally, a few more players came out close to game time. Before that, D. Baxter had driven around the warning track on a motorcycle… weird.
Just before the game started I saw a few Padres emerge from the dugout to play catch. Our tickets for the game were good… but they weren’t dugout seats and the ushers weren’t allowing folks down to the dugouts so close to game time… so when Jerry Hairston, Jr. headed into the dugout after his warmup tosses I waved at him from the cross aisle (ten rows back) and he threw a great fly ball right toward me. After I made the catch I decided that catching a ball with a roof as the backdrop is pretty tough–tougher than a solid blue or black sky. So, good job, fielders who play at Chase Field. Fly balls must be tough.
With two baseballs to my name, I met Michelle at our seats with about ten minutes to go until the game started.
Nice, huh? The were thirty bucks a pop on StubHub… and they were on the aisle. Sweet!
I was excited to get to see Joe Saunders (former Angel) pitch for his new team. I’d always like Joe and I’d gotten a few baseballs and autographs from him during his time in Anaheim.
Now in the NL, he had to bat, too. Neither his hitting nor his pitching was all that great on this day, however, and Saunders went six innings and gave up five earned runs. He also grounded out in that at-bat… and looked bad doing it. But I had a lot of fun rooting for him.
Saunders was out-dueled by Mat Latos–who gave up zero runs in six innings and struck out six. Unfriendly he may be, but this rookie’s got a great arm. He would go to 12-5 on the season af
ter the day’s victory. Man, I just checked the stats of the San Diego pitchers… wow. They make the Giants’ staff look like the Pirates’ staff.
Innings continued, baseball was played… the other, psuedo mascots of the Diamondbacks, the Legends, run a race at each game. At Saturday’s game they let Gonzo win…
I tried to take a picture of the two of us. You know, one of those, stretch your arm all the way out ones… but it didn’t go so well.
The game continued, and after five innings it was 6-0 San Diego. The D-backs weren’t putting up much of a fight. I’d been running for foul balls throughout the game… and I got close to one but it was still at least fifteen feet out of my reach.
I did see D. Baxter walking through the cross aisle, however, and made sure to get a photo as I high-fived him.
In about the eighth inning I realized I hadn’t gotten a good panorama of the stadium from the top deck… I asked Michelle if we could head up there after the game but she reminded me we’d have to leave pretty much right away since we were making the trek back to California that evening. So, I ran allllll the way up to the last row of the seats at Chase Field and took this:
Oooh! And, believe me, there were a lot of steps… I was beat when I got back to our seats.
Once it got to the ninth inning and it was 10-1 Padres I made my move down toward the dugout. Michelle was snapping photos the whole time:
I made it to right where I knew Gary Darling would leave the field… and I called out to him, hoping he’d toss me a ball: “Mr. Darling, could you spare a ball please?”
Gary was looking down into his pouch at the time… and he flipped the ball to the teenager on my left, who was clueless and had no idea what had happened. D’oh!
The Padres didn’t throw anything up over their dugout… so I went back to Michelle and we looked for a few ticket stubs, and I took one last photo of the scoreboard:
Then a nice usher took our photo together:
And we headed out toward the parking structure. It had been a really fun birthday celebration: a new ballpark, lots of memories, autographs, baseballs, good food, and lots of time with my wonderful wife who is a great sport about putting up with all this baseball in her life.
We made the seven hour trip back to California without any trouble and got home around 10:30pm… my next game would be at Angel Stadium in a few short days.
At approximately 12:30pm on August 6th, Michelle and I loaded up the car and headed west. We crossed the Colorado River and made it through the blistering desert heat after a pretty easy drive in our air conditioned Corolla. At about 7:00pm we were checking into our hotel, the Doubletree Guest Suites in Phoenix, AZ.
The high that day was 113 degrees. The low that night was 83 degrees. Why, oh why, did we trek through the desert in August? Why did we spend 300+ miles on the 10 freeway? Was it just for the delicious, free cookies we received from the concierge upon check-in?
But first, Saturday morning we toured the Arizona State University campus and college-y area of Phoenix during the day and stopped at Tempe Diablo Stadium, too.
After we got back to the hotel at 1:40pm we took the light rail downtown and saw the lines forming for Luis Gonzalez bobbleheads.
If I got to do the whole weekend all over again the one thing I’d have changed would be the bobblehead giveaway. I didn’t know when we planned it, but the D-backs would be retiring Gonzo’s number at this game and giving away 15,000 bobbleheads… and apparently everyone in Arizona wanted one. Well, I hoped to keep my active streak of snagging one baseball at every game I’ve attended since September of 2008… so I went here:
Ah, yes, Friday’s Front Row Sports Grill… when Michelle and I emerged on the patio this was our view:
It was a much different feeling being there before an actual game than it was when I’d checked out the view back in March… check the end of that entry. Have I mentioned that I love retractable roofs? And look at how empty the stadium was:
I saw a few Diamondbacks already taking some hacks in the cage as well as some pitchers throwing in the outfield. One of those pitchers was Daniel Hudson. After a couple of requests (which echoed through the cavernous space) he decided he’d throw me a baseball. Hudson reached back and fired a ball up to the patio–but it fell about five feet short, smacked off a facade, and rattled around in the bleachers below. There were a few groups eating at the tables behind me and a few other fans with gloves… who all had now caught on to what was happening.
I asked Daniel to give it, “One more shot,” and as soon as he fielded another ball in the outfield he turned and fired that one up. I’d moved a few feet back from the rail so that even if this one fell short I could move forward and snag it. No need. Hudson hit me with a perfect throw and I was on the board for the day. It should be noted, too, that some of the folks at tables were very impressed and gave me a woo or two. And as I walked over to where Michelle had sat down she was ready with the camera.
About ten minutes before the gates were slated to open I went downstairs to check out the line situation. Four gates were set to open… and all four had at least 1,000 people standing in front of them, waiting for Gonzo bobbleheads. Michelle and I really didn’t care about getting bobbleheads but I certainly cared about getting inside the stadium. Batting practice was already going strong. Luckily, we found out that we could enter the stadium through Friday’s on the Club Level and then take an elevator to the main concourse. The caveat?
“Well, this is not a bobblehead entrance,” explained the usher at the glass doors. So, that’s why there were only eight people near the doors… fine by me.
When we got in there weren’t any Easter eggs. Season ticket holders were allowed in a half-hour earlier. I had tried to get us “season ticket holder” tickets but couldn’t. I ended up buying $8.00 upper level seats the night before.
I spent the first few minutes inside the stadium trying to catch a Diamondbacks homer:
And I found out later that Michelle was snapping pictures the whole time. In the panorama below I’ve circled myself in white:
A few moments later the D-backs headed in and I made it to their dugout just a bit too late… there were sooo many people there.
I walked across the glorious cross aisle behind home plate to the Padres dugout on the first base side. They weren’t ready to hit just yet and I watched as their strength coach led them in some stretches.
Note the basket of baseballs in the above photo.
The lines of people were still filing in… and when the Padres finished stretching my lack of desire for a bobblehead paid off. A bunch of Padres walked to the basket to grab a warmup ball. I asked Mat Latos for one and he pretended to pick up an extra and mimed tossing it to me–then he grinned and walked away. Jerk.
But Glenn Hoffman saw what had happened (and noticed my Padres jersey and cap) and he tossed my a brand new baseball across the dugout–like, these were perfect. They must have just been taken out of the box. Nice!
I headed to right field (or UPTOwN, the D-backs answer to the Mannywood seats at Dodger Stadium) as the Padres began to hit. The seats were ridiculously crowded. All the people who had waited for hours for their Gonzos were now inside and lounging about in the bleachers. I watched as Adrian Gonzelez hit a ball straight into the pool. SPLASH… which was kind of cool. In his next round I had a chance at a homer… I ran up a staircase and half a section to my left, reached out, and the ball tipped off a guy’s glove in front of me and therefore smacked off the heel of my glove. Ouch… I didn’t even see where it ended up. It was lost in a throng of fans. Booo…
Also, bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds ignored my polite requests for a tossup. So, I headed to left field for the end of Padres BP. Again, huge crowds.
And I ran to their dugout as they headed off the field but didn’t snag anything there. So, I ended BP with two baseballs… and that was fine. I would find out later that the attendance at this game was over 48,000 and I’d estimate that about half of those fans were in the stadium by the end of batting practice. Wow–AZ fans love their Gonzo–and their bobbleheads.
After BP Michelle and I wandered the concourse. She had my camera throughout BP and had been snapping photos all the while.
We saw the Legends walk by…
I tried to get a picture with them but failed. The crowds made it hard to move ANYWHERE at a very quick pace. We took refuge from the maddening crowd in the Team Store:
And decided to head up a nearby escalator to the upper concourse and take a look at the field from up there:
We arrived at our seats to take a break. This was the view:
Not great… but I was glad to be sitting… and it was announced that the indoor temperature was a comfortable seventy-six degrees. I was pretty excited to be watching my very first indoor baseball game. I love retractable roofs!
We had a great view of the scoreboard:
And the pool:
And we watched as the pregame ceremony honoring Gonzo commenced, people said nice things about him, they played some highlights, Gonzo spoke:
And finally, they unveiled his number 20 on the wall near Jackie Robinson’s number 42:
OK–time for the game!
Chris Young (of the D-backs… not the one on the Padres) led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run. And, check out the pool:
Ha ha… I thought that was pretty cool. Think the people lounging in the pool were expecting that?
Michelle and I watched the first couple of innings and then grabbed some popcorn and a caramel apple before starting our adventure, touring the stadium…
We continued our trek and I snapped shots from the right field corner:
And the first base side just above the visiting team’s dugout.
We ended up in the left field bleachers for the last few innings of the game, chatting and enjoying the air-conditioned baseball game. Between innings I ran down to the front row to see if I could get Rusty Ryal to throw me his warm-up ball.
I couldn’t… I thought about staying in left field for the ninth inning but opted to head to the Padres dugout…
Arizona had been up 5-0 after the fourth inning but their lead lessened and then went away entirely as the bullpen coughed up five runs… two of them in the ninth. I crept closer:
The was tied, 5-5 as Arizona batted in the ninth.
I figured my best shot to get a postgame baseball would be from the Padres so I was hoping they’d pull out the win. Unfortunately, Chris Young hit his second home run of the game into the left field bleachers near where Michelle and I had been sitting… who knows if I’d have caught it… but the D-backs won this one, 6-5. And, luckily, I was in perfect position to get a ball from home plate umpire, Bill Hohn.
Hohn waited until Young touched the plate and then met all his crew near the plate before walking into the visitors’ dugout toward the umpire tunnel. As he approached he handed baseballs to a pair of kids who (somehow) were allowed to be on the field. And then I shouted, “Mr. Hohn, can you spare a baseball, please?”
He lobbed Ball #3 on the night to me across the dugout. A perfect, rubbed up ball and the first ball I’d ever gotten from an umpire. Woo!
I scavenged for tickets left behind and then Michelle and I headed for the light rail station. Everyone was in a great mood and it was a warm, pleasant summer night. The game had started at about 5:30 and when we got on the train it was about 8:40.
Then, we got off the train at our stop and it was absolutely POURING rain! Weird AZ thunderstorm weather… rather than walk the two blocks to the hotel, we called them and they sent their airport shuttle to pick us up… thanks, Doubletree!
We grabbed a late dinner (and dessert) and knocked out for the night–we had another game the following day!
About a month prior to this game I got a text message from a friend of mine. He told me that for Father’s Day he was flying down from San Francisco (where he lives) to San Diego (where he grew up) to take his dad to a game. He wanted a few of us from college to go with him. As it turns out, Jason, Josh, Brendan, and I would attend this game… and since I had committed to donating blood that morning before making the trek down to SD I asked Jason to get me my ticket ahead of time. That worked out well because after I donated a pint of O+ at the Red Cross donation site, I headed down the 5 freeway and made it to downtown San Diego at about 2pm for the 5:35pm game between the Padres and the Orioles.
I had a little time to kill so I checked out the ticket windows:
And went in the Team Store:
Then I walked past all the Park at the Park gates:
And saw these adorable dogs in a nearby office:
The other guys would be arriving toward the end of batting practice. At 3pm the Park at the Park opened and I ran in to the beach in center field.
There wasn’t anyone hitting when I got there–a few Padres were throwing near the right field line but I ended up just sitting around for about ten minutes. Finally, BP was under way and… well… take a look at the below photo:
So, Oscar Salazar was running from right field to center field and back again. I was near the fence. A baseball had come to rest about thirty feet from the fence. When he got close to center field I yelled out, “Oscar!” He looked over and then I asked him for the baseball in Spanish. In one move he turned to run back toward right field, grabbed the ball, and flipped it underhand to me–I had taken a few steps away from the fence–but the ball was heading over my head so I backpedaled–right through that pile of plastic toys–and made the catch over my head. I was on the board.
At 3:30 the stadium would open–and I’d still have just the one baseball.
That would change pretty quickly. I had decided to hang out on a staircase in the left field seats. After a couple of close calls, a Padres righty launched a homer a bit to my right. I moved down the stairs, across half a section and watched the ball hit off a seat over my right shoulder. It took a bounce in the row behind me, hit a fan’s hands, then rolled down to the first row… just to my right as I was facing away from the field. I snagged it as it trickled away from me for Ball #2 on the afternoon.
I was getting text updates from the guys as they made the trip down from L.A. and then to Jason’s folks’ house, then onto the trolley–they still hadn’t arrived as the Orioles took the field. I ran around to the third base line as the O’s pitchers started their pre-game throwing. It was there that I got bullpen coach Alan Dunn to toss me my third baseball. A few minutes later, rookie Jake Arrieta tossed me a ball as he finished throwing. I’d moved about twenty feet closer to home plate.
About ten minutes later I saw Garrett Atkins playing catch with another Oriole and I positioned myself nearby. When they were through I held up my glove and said, “Hey, Garrett, right here, please.” And that was ball #5 on the day.
I had pretty much exhausted my options along the left field line at that point so I went back to left field–this time to the second deck. I know that every now and then a powerful righty can launch a homer or two up there. Here was my view:
And unfortunately, only one home run got hit up to the second level… and it was two sections away from me. I did have a bit of luck up there though. I’d tried calling out to various players to toss a ball up to the second level. They all ignored me or didn’t even give it a shot. I knew it could be done though… I’d caught two toss ups there back on 7/21/09 from a couple of Marlins. Toward the end of BP a bald-headed trainer was fielding near the left field corner and I yelled out to him–and he launched up Baseball #6 on the evening. Here’s a photo:
The box is around the trainer and I was standing at the red circle (along the railing in the second row). I got some cheers from a few people nearby because I had to lean way out and over to make the catch since the throw had been falling a little short.
I was at the dugout as BP ended but didn’t snag a ball there. The guys had just arrived and so I went to get a drink (and a Frequent Friar lanyard) before heading up to the second level above third base where our assigned seats were. I met up with everyone and decided to spend the game in my seat:
I had a shot at a foul ball… maybe… but it was nice to just relax and enjoy the great weather and the great ball game.
It was nice to chat with my friends… and the game was pretty exciting. The Padres and Orioles scored in the first. It was 3-1 Padres. The Orioles scored two more in the third–and then two more in the sixth to take the lead, 5-3, on an Adam Jones home run. Kevin Millwood was set up for his first win of the season. My friends were very emotional about the game:
Victor Willis (formerly of The Village People) sang YMCA–badly–at the seventh inning stretch. I think he forgot the words at one point.
I went down to the Field Level for the ninth inning and told the guys I’d meet them after the game. Since the Orioles were winning I went behind their dugout:
The Padres made it interesting though and got a run in in the bottom of the ninth–and the tying run was on third… when the final out was recorded. Tense, fun, a fantastic game… plus, there was a Kyle Blanks bobblehead giveaway and we all got coupons for free tacos from Jack in the Box.
I’d barely recovered from my trek to Angel Stadium on Monday and I was planning on making the drive down the 5 freeway to good ol’ PETCO Park in San Diego. My wife, Michelle, had to work that evening so I went to class, worked on my thesis, met her for lunch, dropped her off at her office, then set out to SD. I’d be meeting up with my ballhawk buddy, Leigh, once I got there and, since there was no traffic, I parked at 3:30pm and headed to the box office to by my ticket. I opted on the cheapest Field Level seat I could buy. You can get five buck tickets to the Park at the Park… but in my experience the ushers at PETCO are pretty strict. I felt like I needed to get down to the field–then I could move around as needed.
I got my first baseball of the day at 3:43pm… before the stadium was open. It came from Fred Dabney, an interim coach for the Brewers. And here it is:
Ah, remember when the Brewers wrote clever things on their BP baseballs?
Ball #2 came from a groundskeeper much later. I’d met up with Leigh and we talked, spent some time on the beach in center field:
… and waited for the rest of the park to open. I’d seen quite a few homers land in the seats in left field but a vendor inside had been pocketing all of them. Except one that had gone into the upper deck… halfway up. I knew what section it was in and just me and one other guy ran up there at 5:30 to find it… he got to it first. Dang.
As a matter of fact, I would go through all the rest of BP stuck on two baseballs.
After I ran over to right field (for Prince Fielder) I asked Randy Wolf,
“Could you toss a ball up here?” He told me, “Don’t worry, you’ll get
plenty.” and gestured to the batter.
Is that so, Randy? Well, Fielder was a bust. He hit, maybe, two into
the right field stands. BP regular TC ended up with one of them. I went back over
to left field after that and continued to get shut out.
I hung out in the second deck of left field until Ryan Braun was done taking his swings. A total of two baseballs were hit up there… I didn’t snag either. I’d been counting on a toss or two. But the Brewers–and this was the first time I’d ever seen them play–are stingy.
It was a bummer–the day had started out so well. As I walked over toward the area of my actual ticketed seat after BP I was grumbling about my bad luck… I hoped for a chance at a warmup ball. As I sat down to take the following picture:
… I looked down to my left. I saw this:
Wha–? It was, at this point, about 6:35pm. Maybe it was a Brewers overthrow from early in the afternoon–or a foul ball that just went unseen. I have no idea but it was one of the oh-so-familiar cryptic messages the Brewers are famous for, though this year they seem to have gotten lazy and they just make a “–” on their BP baseballs… like the one at the beginning of this entry.
Cool. I’ll take it–Ball #3. What do you think BSM means?
I moved right behind the dugout for pregame throwing but Carlos Gonzalez let a ball skip by him into the outfield stands… a fan reached out and nabbed it. So, Gonzalez just let it go and he ran into the dugout.
Here was my view for the start of the game:
I stayed in the first row for two innings before the actual seat holders showed up. Then I was banished. Since there were two lefties starting I headed over to the first base side hoping for a foul ball. Here was my view:
The Padres scored four runs in the fourth and five runs in the fifth. And that was it for the scoring. Seriously. I came pretty close to a few foul balls… a guy in the section behind me complimented my range as I strafed right to get within a few feet of one of them. But I came up empty.
Leigh texted me around 10:00 to say he was leaving–he had work. I was determined to stick it out through the chilly, windy San Diego night. The crowd had been recorded at just under 17,000… there were not many people left by the eighth inning.
The Padres won and I was behind their dugout to try to snag something… but nothin’ doin’. I grabbed a few discarded ticket stubs and started to head along the cross aisle back toward third base so I could exit and walk back to my car. As I did that I noticed a few Brewers head out onto the field.
Weird… Fred Dabney, LaTroy Hawkins and some other Brewer all set up so Hawkins could get some throwing in. I lingered in the seating bowl as long as I could. There were a half dozen or so Brewer fans hanging out right by the field. I waited a few minutes… the seating bowl was 98% empty at that point. The ushers were kicking everybody out–I was about a dozen rows from the field.
All the fans in the first row were asked to leave by the ushers. I headed up slowly… I stopped in about the twentieth row to “look through my backpack.” There was a chance to salvage the below average night. As the last few fans exited an usher approached me and said everyone had to leave. I said, “Sure, just one second.” I left my backpack, the trio on the field had just finished. I yelled out, “LATROY!” He heard me as he began to walk toward the dugout… of course he did. The stadium was eerily quiet at that point. I held up my glove and opened up my jacket to show off my Brewers old school logo T-shirt. Hawkins fired a strike from a hundred feet away right to me. Check it out:
I’d never seen a situation like that after a game before. The usher asked, surprised, “Did he just throw you that ball?”
I quickly headed out to the promenade near the Park at the Park and gave away the ball from the groundskeeper to a little boy. Then I headed for my car. On the way out I stopped and had a security guard take my picture before I left. When I got to the parking garage and put my stuff away I couldn’t find my ticket for the garage… finally, I found it in my back pocket, badly wrinkled. When I handed it to the lady at the kiosk she couldn’t scan it… so she charged me the day rate since I had gotten there so early… which was half of the event rate. Score!
I had long drive ahead of me. Four baseballs, I got to see a baseball buddy of mine, a small crowd; it was a fun night at the park.
Thanks for reading–my next game will be som
etime when the Angels come back home.